With the start of the national lockdown, citizens have reportedly been dealing with copious amounts of anxiety, depression, loneliness and feelings of an overwhelming nature. The loss of income for some combined with the stresses of running a household and educating the children all at once has all had a major impact on our mental health and emotional well-being.
In this article, we will be discussing the effects of Covid-19 trauma, the signs and symptoms and how to deal with traumatic stress during the lockdown. It is crystal clear that the current crisis is causing major stress for everyone, and for those with previously existing psychological illnesses, it may feel even more overwhelming at this point. When it comes to mental health, research has suggested that stress and trauma are triggers, for which we need to learn coping mechanisms. Some of the causes of lockdown stress are caused by the following.
Because we are all in the dark as to when the government will determine lifting the lockdown restrictions, we are faced with insecurity. The insecurity of not knowing if we will have jobs, food or good health has left many in stressful situations.
It’s only human to have justifiable fears of COVID contagion, after all, it is what keeps us alive. People who are more prone to Covid-19 such as people struggling with diabetes will be particularly fearful. Not only are people fearing the possibility of infection, but the infected individuals have to now also deal with the stigma that’s placed on them. All of this has compounding negative effects on our general mental health.
Whether the information is accurate or not, we get flooded with hundreds of articles, newspaper clippings and radio ads all relating to the virus. It is not that you shouldn’t stay updated, but too much of anything is never a good thing.
With the latest survey conducted by SADAG (South African Depression & Anxiety group), they have noted that 59% of people felt stressed before the lockdown and 65% of people who took part in the survey said that they felt very stressed during the lockdown.
Other statistical data regarding the effects of lockdown revealed that 55% feel enormous amounts of anxiety, 46% of people felt financial stress and pressure. 40% of people felt depressed and 6% declared usage of substance abuse during the lockdown.
When stressful events occur it is normal to experience some form of trauma about the event or situation. Whether it was a hijacking, natural disaster or a pandemic. The after-effects following such an event are usually met with shock, confusion, fear and feelings of numbness towards what’s going on. You may even experience a range of emotions all at once.
However, with our round-the-clock news and social media platforms, friends and family as well as yourself can be bombarded with horrific stories of tragedy, thus leaving with you with no means of escape. Repeated exposure will overwhelm your nervous system and leave you with traumatic stress.
Stress will not only overwhelm your mind but your body too. There is a direct correlation between stress and a weaker immune system. Research has shown over and over again that in times of extreme stress the body’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. Our stress hormone called corticosteroid can suppress the overall effectiveness in the immune system by lowering several lymphocytes.
Along with traumatic stress comes a shattered sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless and extremely vulnerable. At this point, you may experience feelings such as being physically or emotionally drained. And if someone you know and love has passed away during this time, you might feel a strong sense of grief and find it difficult to function, sleep, eat or control your emotions. Rest assured, these are all normal responses to abnormal events.
After experiencing unsettling events or crisis’s, the thoughts and feelings of traumatic stress eventually fade as life normalizes. This may occur weeks or months after such an event. It is important not to lose hope because there’s a lot you can do to support your recovery and regain emotional balance.
If you were directly or indirectly impacted by a traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxious or stressed out. Your nervous system was overcome by stress thus triggering numerous emotions and physical reactions. The symptoms of traumatic stress can range from mild to severe. These will come and go in waves after the event. At times you may be jumpy and anxious and at other times, feel completely disconnected from everyone and numb to your surroundings.
If you have a difficult time accepting the reality of what has happened.
You are worried that the same event might occur again.
This might occur when loved ones have passed away or suffered life-altering events.
The unpredictable nature of pandemics, violent or sexual crimes or natural disasters might leave you feeling extremely vulnerable or helpless. If these feelings are left undealt with it can trigger your anxiety or depression.
You feel that you could have done more to prevent what has happened.
You are angry at yourself or others because of what has happened, and you’re prone to emotional collapses.
You might have shameful feelings and feel that it is all your fault.
The physical symptoms include the following:
As we mentioned earlier in the article, there’s a correlation between stress and your immune system. By finding positive coping mechanisms and doing your ‘mental exercises’ will go a long way in your recovery. There are specific things you can do to help improve your emotional equilibrium and hopefully find a way to move forward with your life.
1. Do not ignore your feelings or suppress them
2. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, instead of suppressing the emotions attached to the traumatic event.
3. Always remember there is no ‘right or wrong’ way to feel
4. After traumatic events, people react to them differently. So allow yourself to deal with it in your own way.
5. Recreate a solid routine
6. We find comfort in familiarity, so getting back to your old routine as much as possible will certainly help to minimize the traumatic anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.
Avoid reliving the event
Repetitive thinking or reliving of the event could overwhelm your central nervous system. This will make it harder to heal yourself emotionally against the trauma you’ve experienced. It is best to partake in healthy activities that keep your mind occupied and off the traumatic event.
Being constantly reminded of the traumatic event and its reminders can be further traumatizing. Excessive exposure to images, videos or news sites can create traumatic anxiety leading to further traumatization.
Everyone has certain amounts of stress which are normal and can be helpful in some ways.
However, too much stress will interfere with your recovery. If you feel completely overwhelmed in any situation, take 60 breaths and focus on your breathing. Or opt for sensory input where you engage more than one of your senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch or movement. If uplifting music makes you feel calm and relaxed, put on some music and focus on your breathing. If smelling flowers makes you feel happy, take a walk until the overwhelming feeling of anxiety has faded.
In cases of traumatic events, people tend to withdraw from any social setting or other forms of connection. Face to face interaction with the people you love is vital to your recovery. Reaching out to friends and family does not mean you need to talk about the traumatic event. There’s comfort in connectedness and you can simply talk about normal things with a friend or family member.
You may not feel like exercising after traumatic events, but exercise burns off excess adrenaline and releases feel-good endorphins in the brain which will boost your mood. We suggest you try exercises that are rhythmic and try to engage both your arms and legs, Walking, swimming or running are good exercises that will do just that. Physical activity will also aid in giving you a good night’s rest which will also aid in your recovery.
If you feel overwhelmed and that you cannot cope with the trauma alone, we urge you to get in touch with one of the friendly trauma specialists.
Whether you’re having a rough time dealing with COVID anxiety or experienced a COVID related traumatic event, at Zwavelstream we can help you recover so that you may regain a renewed strength and passion for life. Our mission is to give you the treatment you need in a relaxed and de-stigmatized setting. Get in touch with us today to recover from your trauma and get rid of your anxiety.